Civil War course ends with tour of gravesites

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BETHEL – The Bethel Historical Society’s winter/spring history course, “Maine and the Civil War,” ended on April 27, followed by a tour of Bethel Civil War gravesites on Saturday, April 29.

The tour began at the East Bethel Cemetery where course participants heard coordinator and society director Stanley R. Howe focus on the gravesite of Sgt. Isaac W. Estes, his wife and daughter.

Estes was a member of the 20th Maine and was singled out by Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain for his extraordinary courage at the Battle of Gettysburg. Neither his wife or daughter lived beyond the war years.

Howe also cited another member of the 20th Maine, Arthur Mellen Bean, who was among those men in blue who came each year to the church to hear the students of East Bethel School recite their poems.

Among those students in the 1920s was Howe’s father, Rodney, 9, recited from memory John Greenleaf Whittier’s “Barbara Frietchie.” The poem was read by Howe inside the historic East Bethel Church.

The tour moved on to the Middle Intervale Cemetery where Howe focused on the grave of James Porter Holt, who was in the 5th Maine and was killed at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863.

The society has Holt’s diary, where he recorded seeing President Lincoln and shaking hands with Maine Gov. Abner Coburn. Howe read various passages, including the last one where someone else recorded his last thoughts, “Tell my friends that I am mortally wounded and hope to meet them in heaven and my dear Mary, tell them to take good care of my little boy.”

The next stop was Riverside Cemetery where the focus was on the marker of John Mead Gould of the 1st, 10th and 29th Regiments. His diary has been published and is the most comprehensive one to come to light in Maine. Howe read several passages of his wartime memories.

Then it was on to Woodland where Maj. Gideon Hastings of the 12th Maine lies and as does the marker of Clark S. Edwards, commander of the 5th Maine. Chamberlain attended Edwards’ service in Bethel in 1903. Edwards also set aside a lot with a large granite marker to those Civil War soldiers without a lot. As far as can be determined, only one Civil War soldier is buried there.

Howe concluded by reminding all those present of a lecture at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 1, by Earle G. Shettleworth Jr., state historian and director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, at the Dr. Moses Mason House Meeting Room. He will talk on Civil War memorials in Maine.

For more information about the society, people can call 824-2908 or 800-824-2910 or e-mail info@bethelhistorical.org. The Web site is www.bethelhistorical.org.

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